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C’s-Hawks: Pound-for-Pound the NBA’s Best Value

 

Pace: 91 possessions (irrelevant)

Offensive Efficiency: 108.8 points/100 possessions (elite but still deceptively low with garbage time)

Defensive Efficiency: 83.5 points allowed/100 possessions (holy cow)

Remember August? When the Shaq free-agent racewalk came down to the Celtics and the Hawks? Atlanta didn’t want Shaq to start, so in the end he signed with the Celtics for $1,352,181 this season. Remember how you reacted to that signing with mild shock/disgust/not at all?

That contract earned the Celtics a win tonight, and simultaneously cost the Hawks one. Because Shaq basically toyed with Al Horford tonight. He batted Horford around like he was a ball of yarn and Shaq was a giant 325-pound cat wearing size 22 EEE Li-Nings. Shaq was able to tip up rebounds three or four times in a row without Horford touching them. He had three Hulk jams in the first six minutes, and Horford smartly didn’t bother trying to foul on any of them because the two points were absolute fact.

Horford was leading the league in field-goal percentage among starters going into the game. He was 3-10 tonight, and 0-1 at the rim. By the time Shaq left the game for the first time, the C’s had a 15-point lead and the Hawks had been completely demoralized. He only played 21 minutes, but it was in those 21 minutes that he persuaded the opposition to give up.

So this was Shaq’s win. According to Tom Haberstroh’s work with the Wins Above Replacement Player statistic, teams paid on average about $2.23 million per win produced this offseason. So I guess that means that anything Shaq contributes from here on out is just, to use a metaphor he would appreciate, the icing on the cake.

Can he do this again? Hard to say, because he probably should have done it yesterday. Toronto, like Atlanta, doesn’t have much in the way of frontcourt size, but Shaq just didn’t finish that well against them. So who knows? Again, he’s making less than Avery Bradley this year, so we should accept whatever he deigns to give us.

I don’t want to ignore Kevin Garnett’s performance against Josh Smith tonight. Weirdly, Garnett started the game on offense as clumsily as he left off yesterday’s, just much luckier: he threw one transition pass away, fired an entry pass into the rim that Shaq somehow gathered and stuffed, and banked in a hook shot off his outer hip to set up a three-point play. But then Smith came down with mono or something. For much of the early game, it wasn’t that Smith couldn’t find a good shot, it was that his teammates couldn’t find him. And he did the absolute bare minimum to stop KG, someone Smith regularly frustrated last year, on the offensive end.

Smith and Joe Johnson sometimes play like they’re trying to punish their crappy home crowd, and it kind of seems like that’s what happened tonight. KG was great and all, but he may not have been as great as Josh Smith was bored.

This is going to sound like hyperbole, but this game was essentially over with 3:15 to go in the first. Nate sunk an ill-advised but nonetheless gangster pull-up three in transition to bring the score to 31-10, and the Hawks lost a crowd they only had about 60% of to begin with because Celtics fans were using Philips Arena as a winter rental. The game just slowed down after that.

The 39-point first quarter was their highest-scoring of the season (no surprise there). By the time it was over I completely forgot what happened over the weekend. I think I did some light cleaning but that’s about it.

Notes:

  • I assume Turkey and Georgia are historic enemies, because it seemed like Semih had a little extra swag against Pachulia tonight. He looked good, especially compared to yesterday: some nice post moves and reasonably strong defensive awareness. Good confidence game for him and Delonte after their horrible Toronto outings. Not a good confidence game for Avery Bradley, who airballed his first NBA shot and looked generally lost. But this game meant absolutely nothing with regard to his ability or future so let’s ignore it great moving on.
  • Glen and Delonte used the garbage 4th quarter to experiment with switching positions. Delonte had a couple of dramatic swats on the Hawks bigs, and while I’m not positive, I don’t think Glen had any attempts inside 15 feet.
  • We saw a severe instance of Tommy Point inflation tonight. I think there were 30 Tommy Points given out in this game, including several Tommy Points and a Half. Tommy had no regard for what effect his reckless printing of Tommy Points would have on the value of the currency tonight. We’re going to have to raise Tommy Point interest rates now.
  • More on this: Tommy complained that the refs weren’t making enough defensive three second calls on the Hawks when the score was 46-21.
  • On several occasions, including the first possession of the game, the C’s ran a nice little play that takes advantage of Nate as a shooting threat but doesn’t actually involve Nate shooting. Here’s how it goes:

Nate dumps the ball off to Shaq in the high post, then zips through the paint, down the baseline on the strong side, and along the arc off a double screen from Pierce and Ray to shake Bibby.

Shaq waits patiently with the ball, then gives it back to Nate upon his return. Everyone mobilizes to stop Nate from getting the shot (as much as Bibby can be said to mobilize for anything). But in the earlier kerfuffle, Paul snuck away to just inside the arc after setting the first screen for Nate: Marvin Williams catches on too late, and even when he does try to follow Pierce, KG is waiting for him with a savage pick. Nate dishes to Pierce, and scene.

Pierce had about ten feet of space for his shot the first time they ran it. The second time Williams saw it coming, but Pierce still lost him by going away from Garnett’s screen, and would have had an okay look if he hadn’t flubbed Nate’s pass a bit. Anyway, the moral of this story is don’t describe a play without video, pictures, or telestrator technology, which I understand we’re working on.

  • How is it that I understand this about telestrator technology? Here’s how: I enjoyed a few local beers with Celtics Hub veterans Brian Robb, Brendan Jackson, and Brendan Jackson’s Girlfriend tonight. We made plans for a lot of new features for the rest of the season, and Stern teleconferenced in for a vote on whether or not to contract the Bobcats (2 for and 2 against, so we’ll do it again next month).

But you guys don’t want to hear about business. You want to know what Brian and Brendan look like. Here’s an amateur sketch I made of them:


I don’t think I have to tell you which is which.

  • NHBluesMan

    "He only played 21 minutes, but it was in those 26 minutes that he persuaded the opposition to give up." – so which was it? Did Shaq play for 21 minutes or 26 minutes?

    • hdavenport

      Jeez Louise. Like I said, I went out drinkin'.

  • mememe

    lol

  • Tom

    Avery Bradley is starting to bother me. His dribbling skills is marginal and his shot selection is terrible (he did the same thing in the pre-season). I know he is trying to get his first basket in a blow out, but can he pass the ball before he is trapped? Can someone tell him he should play the Tony Allen role?

    • What More Can I Say?

      He's a ROOKIE Tom. He is not gonna be at Tony Allen level his first year in the NBA surrounded by future hall of famers.

      WOW. Celtics fans are spoiled!!!

      • Kobe's Daddy

        yea honestly nothing Avery Bradley does should be on anyones radar this season unless it's something really obviously wrong

    • JP-

      I think he might be able to provide TA type defense eventually in his career, but he will be a better offensive player, this was his debut, nothing to get worked up over,

      • zebulon

        He actually played excellent defense last night, and even finished with a steal. If our point guard rotation wasn't so stacked currently, I think he could contribute something this season.

        Last season at Texas he shot over 50% on spot up jumpers, a pretty ridiculous number. I think his long term goal should be to develop into a player capable of playing lock-down defense and hitting his open shots, while someone else handles the ball. It's only when Bradley has to create looks for himself or others that he looks so out of place on offense.

        If only he was taller…

  • Mal Tempo

    Be thankful for every morsel Tommy Heinsohn gives us while we have him.

    • hdavenport

      Agreed. Don't want my comments to imply that I don't absolutely love Tommy. We were talking last night about how League Pass really helps you understand how lucky you are to have a team like Mike and Tommy calling games. Nobody comes close.

      • Tom W

        yeah, don't take that for granted. All i have to watch the C's here in Iowa is League Pass. Last night the Hawks broadcast was about as enthusiastic as the Hawks home crowd.

      • TedL – Sophomore

        HD- your comment was hilarious. I took that as gentle ribbing, and I think Tommy would appreciate it. Three Tommy Points for you!

    • JP-

      totally agreed, Mike and Tommy are great, and I like Donnie Marshall too when he fills in. I think Mike is a great announcer though. No one beats Marv Albert though

  • newyorkceltics

    LOL Great recap there, messr davenport – great addition to the Hub! No-one can quite fill in Zach Lowe's tireless video analysis but I love the humor here now.

  • What More Can I Say?

    You must of definitely went out drinking. I've already read on 3 other sites how KG did just a masterful job on shutting Josh Smith down. No FG's???

    Maybe you were just bored watching the blowout game so Josh Smith looked bored to you.

    • hdavenport

      Only three attempts, my long-usernamed compadre, and zero at the rim. Smith only played 22 minutes, and he spent a BUNCH of possessions just standing around near the baseline on the weak side. He was NOT active. That may have been because KG was so on that Smith didn't want any part of him, but he definitely wasn't working last night.

      • Kobe's Daddy

        I think that's just how much of a beast KG is on defense. Smith saw that KG's back to 08 form and he wants no part of 08 KG!

  • thetruthhurts

    nice work H.D. enjoyed the humor, especially after a game like that. celtics nation got frantic after two bad games so it was nice for us to all be able to relax after last nights game vs. a middle school JV team (oh wait that was the hawks). cant say that i wasnt a bit dissappointed after those two ugly loses, but at least they woke up last night. and at least we arent heat fans. yikes.

  • TedL – Sophomore

    Absolutely. And we've seen the difference a good PG and ball movement can make to Shaq's game. He's breaking free for those dunks and lay-ins because of Rondo and the rest of the team.

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